Brussels - The Commission has released the first regional discard plans aimed at eliminating the practice of discarding unwanted fish back into the sea, as required under the recently reformed CFP. It is questionable, however, whether these plans will actually ensure that perfectly edible fish will no long be thrown overboard. 

Several of the plans contain exemptions, providing loopholes and endangering their proper implementation. As such they stand a serious chance of not delivering the landing obligation (the obligation under the Common Fisheries Policy for fishers to land all their catches instead of discarding.

The scientific evaluation of the plan for the South Western Waters for example, showed that exemptions in the fisheries for albacore tuna and anchovy essentially allow highgrading, (the practice of throwing overboard perfectly edible fish to create storage capacity for higher valued fish). While highgrading is prohibited, the mentioned exemptions will make monitoring and control of this practice very difficult.

While in general all fisheries managed by quotas will become subject to landing obligations, exemptions can be requested if for example scientific studies show that certain species have a high survivability when being thrown back to the sea after being caught. All fish released back into the sea under the allowed exemptions must still be reported and accounted for in order to ensure full transparency and data for scientific advice.

The plans cover all pelagic fisheries such as fisheries for mackerel, anchovy, bluefin tuna and swordfish, and fisheries in the Baltic. These are the first fisheries for which the landing obligation will be introduced, starting 1 January 2015. 

The regional plans were developed by groups of Member States who gave joint recommendations regionally for the Baltic, North Sea, North Western Waters, South Western Waters and the Mediterranean. After scientific evaluation of these plans, the Member States submitted the final versions to the Commission, which reviewed the plans against the objectives of the CFP and adopted them as delegated acts. 

Under the new CFP, Member States are required to take input from the Advisory Councils, stakeholder bodies consisting of sector and other interest groups into account. However, this consultation process was poorly executed, with Member States largely failing to consult or only doing so at a very late stage. Furthermore, the final version of plans submitted by Member States could not be scientifically evaluated. Clearly this process of development of discard plans needs improvement for the second batch of plans for demersal fisheries in the North Sea and Western Waters, that need to be in place before January 2016. 

The European Parliament and the Council have two months to either accept or reject the published plans, without the possibility of amending them.

For more information, please contact:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Seas At Risk Fisheries Policy Officer
+32 470 604509

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